“Heap big Injun trouble for Gertie Grit” says the cover. Heap big trouble for the Injuns more like, knowing our Gertie. Sure enough, she unwittingly causes another historical catastrophe, which in this case is Custer’s Last Stand. And it’s all because Custer put her on KP duty.
“Jassy’s Wand of Power” and “Sisters at War!” both end this week. The drought breaks when the power plant that’s causing it is shut down. Blimey, it’s been so long since a rainfall that Jassy’s little friend Mark doesn’t even realise what it is when it finally falls! Well, Jassy can retire her water-divining rod now. Story artist Keith Robson moves on to a new serial next week. Meanwhile, the sisters are still at war with constant arguing, but their uncle has decided he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Another story ended last issue, but nothing new starts this week. Instead, we have a full page informing us that three stories start next week. We just love it when we have a nice big run of several stories starting at once.
Meanwhile, poor Daisy has to do ironing with a broken bone in her hand (and it doesn’t look like that hand is getting any medical attention – ooh, that horrible household!). But Daisy finds a way to get the ironing done despite her hand and is surprised to be rewarded with a cat brooch. Unfortunately the other servants are still mean to her, and that brooch has made them jealous too. If only Daisy could see what Maud has learned about dealing with nasty types who bully servants – throw water all over them.
In “Is This Your Story?”, Freda has a bad habit of telling lies, but she gets caught out when she tries to pull a fast one over her teacher. She spends a horrible weekend dreading what punishment awaits her on Monday, which could be expulsion. What is teach going to do?
Ouch! Rose gets a faceful of stings while foiling the Thornes’ latest scheme this week. Gran’s herbal remedies sort out the stings, but then the bryony blooms – which is a warning of disaster. Sounds like the story is about to reach its climax.
Groan…not even Stefa’s own birthday softens her “heart of stone”. She throws all the presents she gets in the faces of everyone who gave them to her. Stefa, the day will come when you look back on this birthday with deep regret. Later in the episode, Stefa finds it’s going to be a lot harder to steer clear of Ruth – her parents are inviting Ruth over to their house and going to parents’ night to see her work. Stefa thinks it’s a cheek; she is their daughter, not Ruth. Huh, considering the way you’re carrying on with your folks, you’re the one who’s got a cheek, Stefa!
Helen manages to break free of Miss Vaal and shut her in the bubble for a change. On the advice of her teacher she goes home to tell her parents what’s going on. The very parents who never once visited her while she was in the bubble, come to think of it.
Alley Cat borrows a library book on how to “nab nosh”, but everything backfires and he ends up having to exchange it for a first aid book.
In Jinty’s fireworks issue for 1976, Gertie Grit does the honours when her time-travelling gets her caught up in the Gunpowder Plot itself (below). Funny – the biggest fireworks of this historical event seem to come from Druid Caractacus.
Gertie isn’t the only one in the issue getting a taste of the Tower of London. That’s where Jassy is about to be sent to as well. It’s the fate of all those who claim to have psychic ability in this drought-stricken story.
The Thornes’ latest trick is play “ghost” to get their hands on the magistrate’s property, but Rose’s gran turns the tables by scaring the Thornes with the same ruse. Halloween was last week, you Thornes!
Ruth finds out the reason for “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” and starts a “Melt Stefa” campaign with her classmates to soften it. But from the looks of things, not even global warming would “melt Stefa”. However, jealousy is proving more effective; Stefa gets her nose put out of joint when her parents start treating Ruth like their very own daughter.
Mandy in this week’s “Is This Your Story?” doesn’t want to share her brother with a girlfriend. She breaks them up, but her brother’s reaction isn’t what she expected. Her conscience pricks up and she gets them back together.
In “Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud”, Maud finds a friend in a servant at the finishing school while Daisy can’t in the cruel household she has ended up in. The household is on holiday in the country and Daisy seizes another chance to escape. Unfortunately they catch up (again), and Daisy breaks a bone in her hand in the process. And nobody, not even the servants, has an ounce of sympathy for her there. Rather, they all laugh at what great sport it’s been chasing her.
“Champion in Hiding” ends this week. It turns out nasty Aunt Shirley and Mrs Blackmoor were in cahoots to stop Mitzi and Firefly from winning the dog championship, but win they do. Mrs Blackmoor’s furious and won’t pay Aunt Shirley because she failed, so Aunt Shirley is punished by ending up with nothing.
Helen’s back in the bubble and the sinister Miss Vaal manages to forestall Helen’s art teacher when she makes enquiries into what’s going on. Then Helen makes a bold move with the black book she stole from Miss Vaal to help her make a rush for freedom. Will it work?
In “Sisters at War!”, Uncle Jason runs away from hospital and camps out in hiding although he’s not well. Mum is furious when she finds out Sue has been helping to hide him though she knows about his condition.
Spotty Muchloot and Alley Cat have another battle, this time with toffee. Well, we always knew Spotty was stuck-up.
We fill another October gap here. As the cover indicates, it is the start of a new serial, “Gertie Grit the Hateful Brit!”, but one thing puzzles me about it: why does the cover show Gertie Grit with long green sleeves when in fact she has bare arms?
Inside, Jinty seems to be paying Halloween some early homage with Alley Cat, who has a dream about a witch turning him into a worm. He gets used as fish bait, but the spell wears off in time for him to catch fish of his own. When he wakes up he really does catch fish, which have fallen off the back of a lorry.
In the first episode of “Gertie Grit, the Hateful Brit!”, Gertie hails from Roman Britain. There’s a definite Flintstones feel about Gertie’s home environment, but we don’t get much chance to see it before she steals a magic time-travel pendant from Druid Caractacus. Off she goes, and her first stop in time is the boudoir of Helen of Troy. Though it hardly looks it, Gertie’s is the face that launches the fabled 1000 ships when she mucks about with Helen’s makeup. Gertie then discovers Caractacus is following her through time to get his pendant back, but she isn’t going to let him do it that easily. And so the pattern is set for the rest of the episodes to follow. We are informed that Gertie meets Nell Gwynn in the next issue. Pity poor Nell…
In “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”, Stefa is trying to turn her heart into stone after losing her best friend Joy, which for everyone is more like “Stefa’s head of stupidity”. Stefa’s now trying to get herself expelled to get away from Ruth Graham, the girl who looks almost like Joy. However, Ruth keeps foiling Stefa’s attempts to do so. You’re not getting rid of Ruth that easily, Stefa!
In Victorian times, Lady Daisy de Vere and a skivvy named Maud have accidentally switched lives. Maud is taking advantage of a posh finishing school (shades of My Fair Lady), and this week she is trying to cover the fact that she’s barely literate by pretending to have an injured hand. Meanwhile, Daisy attempts to run from the horrible downstairs life she has landed in, but she gets recaptured, brutally beaten, and then chained to a kitchen range until she’s finished cleaning it.
Hugh Thornton-Jones is doing double duty as filler artist for “Champion in Hiding” and “The Jinx from St Jonah’s”. In the former, Firefly foils some sheep rustlers but gets badly hurt, and cruel Aunt Shirley is still a real slavedriver to our protagonist Mitzi. In the latter, Katie attempts to reconcile a quarrelsome couple who keep breaking off their engagement. It succeeds, but in an extremely weird way that leaves us all scratching our heads along with Katie.
Helen Ryan escapes from the bubble she was kept in for lack of germ resistance and even joins an art class. But then she feels horribly ill. Maybe she should have stayed in the bubble after all? Meanwhile, Miss Vaal discovers Helen has escaped and says “she will have to take the consequences”. Now that sounds very, very ominous…
In “Rose among the Thornes”, motorcycle roughs are raising hell in the village, and Rose discovers the Thornes are behind it in a scheme to shut down a café. She manages to foil that scheme but knows the Thornes will have another brewing soon.
Jassy discovers Mr Danby is taking advantage of her water-dowsing powers to extort payment and goods out of drought-stricken people. Her response is to walk out on Danby, but then she jumps from the frying-pan into the fire. She gets captured by Sir Harmer Jeffreys, the man in charge of the power plant. He’s heard the gossip about her and Danby, and whatever he’s got in mind for her does not sound promising.
Another extortionist threatens Sue, one of the “Sisters at War”. Sue gives in to his demands to meet him, but the blackmailer reckons without Uncle Jason. Uncle manages to deal to the blackmailer but then collapses with a heart condition. He swears Sue to secrecy. Then sister Sylvia jumps to the wrong conclusion about what happened and it’s “sisters at war” again.
I have been working on more Latin translations of Jinty serials. In line with Comixminx’s entry on Portuguese translations, I have taken a select few from the list and provide some commentary on them rather than posting a long list as I did before.
Malincha et sceptrum magicum (Malincha and the Magic Sceptre i.e. Sceptre of the Toltecs)
I couldn’t find a Latin word for Toltec, so I came up with “magic sceptre” instead. From there it was an easy matter to use the protagonist’s name to provide alliteration. Perhaps it is not as effective as “Sceptre of the Toltecs”, but it is alliterative. As Comixminx says, girls titles would not be complete without alliteration somewhere.
Citeria cara noster (Our Beloved Clown i.e. The Jinx from St Jonah’s)
This was a tough one to translate. I doubted I could find a Latin word for “jinx” that had the same context as the original title. So I googled for a Latin word for “klutz” but then it was pointed out the word may be not so suitable as it had other more negative meanings. So in the end it was “citeria”, meaning “clown”. It was alliterated with “carus –a –um”, meaning “beloved”, to express that Katie may be a jinx but everyone loves her, including the girls who regularly suffer from her jinxing. It also provided alliteration and a dash of humour that was in keeping with the strip being a humorous one.
Saltandum per ludum (Dancing Through the Game i.e. Life’s a Ball for Nadine)
This was another tough one. I was thinking along the lines of a title that reflected the curious relationship between sport and dancing that ran throughout the story, but I couldn’t figure out how to go about it. Eventually I hit on the idea of something like “dancing around the game”, but as this sounded like Nadine was fooling around with the game, it became “dancing through the game”.
Originally I toyed with a translation that reflected how Mandy used her daydreaming to escape an intolerable home life. But I changed my mind and began to develop a title that commented on the mystery that surrounded both the hatred Mandy gets at home and the tests she undergoes, and the mystery of how and why they were connected. The adjective used for them both would provide the alliteration. “Perplexus –a –um” was chosen because it was recognisable to English speakers. It can also mean “interlaced”, which could also serve as a play on the hatred and the tests being connected.
Plagae ex scarabeo aegyptio (Plagues of the Egyptian Scarab i.e. Creepy Crawley)
A title that used “brooch” was rejected because the Latin word for brooch can also mean “buckle”. Eventually I found there was an actual Latin word for “scarab” and developed the title with that. The noun “plaga –ae”, meaning “strike” or “plague”, was chosen for association with the scarab because it was short, strong and instantly recognisable. It was also reminiscent of the Ten Plagues of Egypt, which tied in with the Egyptian theme and what the scarab does.
A title that used “evil” was rejected because the necklace was not downright evil, just angry. So the title began to develop from there, and the Latin words for “wrath” and “Indian” provided alliteration.
Yes, the Latin version of Comixminx’s Portuguese translation. I think it works even better in Latin because the Latin words for “golden” and “silver” both begin with “a”, which gives an alliterative effect.
This started with “siccitas longa” (long drought), but it didn’t sound a very thrilling title. So “haruspex -spicis” (diviner) was added because it would sound like an intriguing word to English speakers and therefore provide more interest. Finally, “siccitas longa” was capitalised because the people in the story would be very likely to use capitalisation for the drought when they look back on it.
Gertie Grit, the Hateful Brit! (artist Paul White)
Stefa’s Heart of Stone (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
Rose among the Thornes (artist Jim Baikie)
Champion in Hiding (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
Sisters at War! (artist Trini Tinturé)
Girl in a Bubble (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Pat Mills)
The Jinx From St Jonah’s (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones) – last episode
Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud (artist Ken Houghton)
“Jassy’s Wand of Power” is the lead story on this issue; it takes up the front cover and runs to three and a half pages, oddly enough – but then there are only 3 panels on this front cover so I guess that means it is the equivalent of about three ordinary pages. It’s nice having a page of comics on the cover, really draws you in. In this episode, Jassy is starting to raise people’s awareness of the dangerous industrial process that Sir Harmer Jeffreys has been using. They still have to manage to get further away from him without either getting caught – and at the end of the episode they have to face a hungry and thirsty lion too!
Stefa is continuing in the grip of her grief – she is cooking her own food as her dad has forbidden her mother to cook for her until she comes to her senses. There is nearly a deadly chip pan fire as a result, and it is Stefa’s classmate who saves her. No gratitude results of course as this is the classmate who has an eerie likeness to Stefa’s dead friend.
Hugh Thornton-Jones has two stories in this issue – he has taken on the art duties for “Champion in Hiding” from Mario Capaldi, and he has also drawn the last episode that Katie Jinks appears in. In this story, Katie is chasing a wee black kitten that you’d think woud be a lucky cat – but who brings disaster to all whose path she crosses! Of course in the end the little kitten is given to Katie, who is very happy to have a kitten jinx in her life.
“Girl In A Bubble” has the sinster Miss Vaal finding her experimental subject Helen out of the bubble – but escape is not possible as Helen’s friend Linda is threatened by Miss Vaal unless she returns meekly to the bubble. Of course Linda goes and tells someone in charge, but Miss Vaal has a plan to deal with that without letting Helen escape again…
This is the 250th post on this blog! After a slow season in the run up to Christmas, we have been blazing away. How better to celebrate than with another creator interview?
Keith Robson contacted us via a comment on this site: “I drew ‘The Birds’ so can tell you that the writer was ‘Buster’ editor Len (Lennox) Wenn. Before going freelance in 1975 I was a staffer so Len and I were old friends. Len also wrote ‘Go On, Hate Me’ and many other Jinty serials.” He kindly agreed to answer a few questions for this blog, illuminating various aspects of the life of a freelancer and staffer at the time and subsequently.
Keith Robson stories in Jinty (see also the Catawiki list of his stories and the Lambiek Comiclopedia entry):
Can You Beat Sharp-eyed Sharon? – spot-the-clue feature in a Summer Special and the Jinty Annual 1979
1 Can you please outline your career in British comics? For instance, how did you start, which titles did you write for, how long did you draw comics for? I have read Dez Skinn’s article about IPC Fleetway when you both worked there, and of course in your original comment on this site you said that you started as a freelancer in 1975, but it would be great to know what led you to go freelance (it seems to have been a step taken by a lot of in house staff?).
I got my start in October 1968 in D.C.Thomson’s Meadowside art department in Dundee. This was a wonderful training ground where I learned far more than I ever did in Art College! There were over 50 artists, letterers and layout people at the disposal of all the Thomson publications so almost anything could land on your desk to be drawn, quickly and accurately. In those early days I drew lots of text story illustrations for the boys’ comics – Rover, Victor, Hotspur etc. Pat Mills and John Wagner were there at the time though I never got to know them, and they left before I did.
The Spanish and Italian artists used by the girls’ comics did beautiful work, but they could never get British things like policemen, buses, taxis, pillar boxes etc. right, so a typical job would be Anglicising pages for Jackie or Romeo. (I also appeared in Romeo, as did many young Thomson staffers, photographed to illustrate readers’ letters and problems!) More often though, 39 pages of an old girls’ serial would land on my desk to be updated- all the hairstyles updated, skirts shortened, blazer badges changed and so on. Thus acres of magnificent artwork passed through my hands, and once in a while there would be the opportunity to actually draw some pages. My first girls’ stories were for Diana starting with a serial on the back page (in full colour!) called ‘Little Donkey’. Assorted other Diana features and annual pages followed but the bread and butter work of the art department was repairs and alterations. In all, I spent two and a half happy years in Meadowside learning from some wonderful mentors, but really wanting to draw my own weekly pages and not seeing too much future for that in the Thomson Art Dept.
In the summer of 1971 I was down in London (hoping to find an agent) and found myself passing the offices of IPC Magazines with a folder of artwork under my arm and the number of an ex-Thomson staffer now in Look and Learn… An hour later after a hilarious interview with legendary managing editor Jack Le Grand I emerged back on Farringdon Street with a staff job (and some freelance work on Look and Learn)!
I returned to Dundee, packed my bags, bade a cordial farewell to D.C.Thomson, and a fortnight later joined Buster working with editor Lenn Wenn and sub editor Dez Skinn. (A week later we were all on strike!)
A daily visitor to the Buster office was Mavis Miller, and old friend of Lenn’s (they started at Fleetway together) and we often all went to lunch. I acquired an agent (Dan Kelleher of Temple/Rogers) and started doing freelance for assorted publishers, all kinds of work with a view to saving enough for a deposit on my own flat. Through the good offices of Dan and Pat Kelleher, (and since I had parted amicably from D.C.Thomson), I began drawing for the Sparky – a series called ‘Mr. Bubbles’.
Friends in Dundee alerted me to a suitable flat for sale in Newport-on-Tay (across the river from Dundee) I was able to get a mortgage, and a few months later took the plunge, moved back north and went freelance, working for both Thomsons and IPC.
2 Which stories did you draw, in Jinty and on other titles? On my list of Jinty stories that you drew, I have “Jassy’s Wand of Power”, “Go On, Hate Me!”, “The Goose Girl”, “The Birds”, and various Gypsy Rose stories. Of the stories you drew, do you have favourites or perhaps ones you now recall with a bit of a shudder? Did you know ever know who wrote “Jassy” for instance, or the Gypsy Rose stories you drew? We know from Veronica Weir that there was at least one case of an artist who wrote their own story; did you ever do that, or did you know of other cases where that happened at all?
It was through Pat Kelleher and knowing Mavis Miller that I got my first Jinty serial – “Jassy’s Wand of Power’’ – which I really enjoyed. They never told me know who wrote anything, I only knew the stories written by Lenn Wenn, so I can’t tell you who did those Gypsy Rose stories – except for the one I wrote myself. This was one of the first scripts I ever had accepted. A girl encounters a photographer with a Victorian camera at a ruined castle. She later realises he must be a ghost and that she has taped his voice on her new cassette recorder! However when she plays it back there’s nothing. The twist comes when she does some research in the library and discovers a 100 year old photo – of herself! [This story is reprinted below]
I didn’t find out that Alison Fitt had written “The Goose Girl” until 2006 when we met at the launch of ‘Time Tram Dundee’, a ‘Horrible History’-type book I illustrated that was written by Alison’s son Matthew.
3 In your time doing these comics are there any kinds of stories that you would have liked to draw that you didn’t get the chance to?
I enjoyed all the stories I did for Jinty, and I always tried to put in as much background detail as I could. I would love the opportunity to redraw any of them again now (I cringe when I see some of the stuff I did in those days!). I especially liked stories with a distinctive setting and lots of atmosphere. I can remember “Save Old Smokey” the train story that Alison mentioned. I would have loved to have been asked to draw that one as I love steam trains! Deadlines were often a bit of a struggle, and in order to stay on schedule with “The Goose Girl” I had to take my pages with me on holiday, and it was while drawing an episode in a caravan in Anstruther that the news came that Elvis had died (16 August 1977).
4 We are always keen to know who worked on the various stories, as explicit creator credit was very rare. You have already helped muchly with your crediting of Len Wenn as writer on “Hate Me!” and “The Birds”, and via Alison Christie we now know that she was the writer on “The Goose Girl”. Do you know names of other people who worked on Jinty and related girls’ comics?
After Jinty, I also did a serial for Penny called ‘The Blue Island Mystery’; again I was never told who the writer was, also a ‘spot the clue’ type detective feature called “Sharp-eyed Sharon” for the Summer Special [there were also two examples of it in the 1979 Annual]. My final girls’ serial was for D.C.Thomson in Mandy, which had been taken over by former Sparky editor, Iain Chisholm (shortly before he died). This was “Diana’s Dark Secret” – Blind Diana unexpectedly regains her sight in episode one, but because she fears they’ll take away Goldie, her beloved guide dog she continues (riddled by guilt) to fake blindness. Only the dog knows…
After Mandy, Thomsons moved me onto Topper (drawing “The Whizzers from Oz”) and Starblazer doing science fantasy covers, then on to their final two boys’ papers, Spike and Champ. When they folded I worked on school textbooks for Oliver and Boyd in Edinburgh, then over ten years on the Dandy writing and drawing “Black Bob”, and “Jonah” and “General Jumbo” for Beano. There was a brief return to girls’ type stories in the Dandy with a short-lived parody written tongue-in-cheek by Thomson staffer Duncan Leith called “Wendy’s Wicked Stepladder”.
5 In his article, Dez attributes the decline of comics to a contempt for the reader (and maybe also the creator?) that was down to a purely commercial vision – printing using old-fashioned presses, resizing artwork in a destructive fashion, and so on. Pat Mills also thinks similarly, talking of the hatch-match-dispatch process angrily. Of course the rise of competing claims on kids’ time and pocket money (computer games, tv) could also be held to blame. Where do you stand on this? Do you think the decline of the British comics industry was an avoidable misfortune, or inevitable in a changing world?
I feel it was very short-sighted that the comics were allowed to slide into decline. For sure, the rise of other media certainly played its part, but the publishers were always reluctant to invest when sales dropped, especially IPC with its hatch, match, and despatch policy. They never had much respect for the amazing pool of talent that they had at their disposal, and certainly never gave anyone credit. Payments hardly increased in the latter years, and our work was never returned. There was a constant anxiety that the comic might fold (they never told you that the end was coming) and there might be no more work…
Letterpress printing never did justice to the artwork and maybe, just maybe if they had gone upmarket into full colour and printed on decent paper, giving creators a name check they might have got a bit more attention and survived. Of course there was always a snobbery towards comics in this country, devalued and disparaged at the time by teachers, librarians etc. who thought they were just throwaway rubbish that would rot children’s brains.
Nowadays teachers are delighted to see children reading comics (reading anything!) and appreciate the creativity that goes into them. Thanks largely to ‘Time Tram Dundee’, I decided to qualify as a teacher and now have a whole new career (which I love!) going into schools and working with children to create and draw their own comics.
It surprises me that no-one has considered publishing some of those serials as graphic novels (suitably updated and with colour). I’ve worked with Alison Fitt on several projects and we’ve recently collaborated on a 72 page graphic novel ‘Nora Thumberland, Heroine of Hadrian’s Wall’ (yet to find a publisher) which 30 years ago could well have have been a Jinty serial…
Many thanks again to Keith for this great interview!
“Gypsy Rose: A Picture From The Past” published Jinty 3 December 1977
If Misty was the girls’ comic with horror stories in it, then Jinty was the one remembered for its science fiction stories. Although Jinty didn’t include sf from the very start, and was far from being the only girls’ comic title with science fictional themes, this is a justified link: the first science fiction-influenced story appeared within the first year of Jinty, and sf appeared throughout the bulk of the run of the comic, forming some of the very strongest and most memorable stories in the title.
There are a number of really key examples of sf stories in Jinty, and I could choose any one of them to talk about in more detail: “Fran of the Floods“, “The Robot Who Cried“, “Land of No Tears“, “Almost Human“, and “The Forbidden Garden” are all indubitably sf and memorable stories to boot. This time I want to talk about “The Human Zoo”, which we have hardly focused on at all as yet.
In “The Human Zoo”, a coachload of schoolgirls is abducted by aliens, and taken in a flying saucer (along with other, grown-up, abductees) to another planet. This planet, light-years away (everyone is put into cold-sleep to get there) has two suns, and the dominant life-form consists of the aforementioned aliens, who are bald, dome-headed, and speak only telepathically. From the alien point of view, humans are mere animals; indeed, there are wild humans living outside the alien cities who are hunted down as food and for sport.
At the beginning of the story we’re introduced to twin sisters, one of whom is a soft-hearted vegetarian animal-lover; her twin is the one we follow throughout, as they are separated and taken through all the horrific things that sentient beings do to creatures that they don’t think are sentient: putting them in zoos (including forcing them to have a chimp’s tea party), keeping them as pets, killing them for food, and even doing scientific experiments on them. In the end, the aliens are reconciled to the idea that humans are intelligent, coming round to this partly because one of the twins can talk to them due to the scientific experiments she’s undergone, and partly because the wild humans save the alien city, and the alien king’s daughter, from drowning. (Their secret weakness is being unable to swim, whereas the humans have learned.)
This is a good, solid sf story, taking the opportunity to swipe at a few other targets on the way (it is clearly an animal rights story too). It perhaps would fit better in the pulp years of some decades previously than in the more sophisticated and experimental New Wave of science fiction of the 60s and 70s: for instance at the end of the story, everything is reset and no lasting impact is seen from the girls’ trip to a far planet, and the aliens are pretty stereotypical. But really, you couldn’t get a story that was much more solidly in the heartland of science fiction themes.
“The Green People” (1975): this is the first story I would identify in Jinty as being science fiction. I hesitated initially, as the titular green people live underground in idyllic locations that make you think more of elves than of aliens: but they have ray-guns and a special metal and an advanced civilization that has gone through war into peace. They also use that trope beloved of sf writers of a certain era: telepathy. Like “The Human Zoo”, this uses an sf theme (here, it’s a first contact story) to talk about an issue that affects our society more immediately: wanton destruction of the environment.
“Fran of the Floods” (1976): this is a John Wyndham type-story done for a schoolgirl audience, an apocalypse and post-apocalypse in comics form. it is a rather cosier catastrophe than even Wyndham was ever accused of, but with pretty grim moments nevertheless and a roll-call of the dead and missing, at the end. The clock is not reset in this story, even if civilization is not gone forever.
“Jassy’s Wand of Power” (1976): at the same time as running “Fran”, about climate change leading to flooding, Jinty also ran a story about drought. This disaster was man-made rather than unlucky; there is a fair amount of indicting of powerful men in the story. It is set slightly in the future, with psychic powers having been found to work and a backlash set in against them.
“The Robot Who Cried” (1977): a robot is created, in the shape of a girl; she runs away from her creator and learns what it is to be human. The ‘science’ in it is daft and thin but there’s lots of good stuff about misunderstanding human motivations and society.
“Battle of the Wills” (1977): the protagonist is offered the chance to have herself duplicated by an unscrupulous scientist: she jumps at it, hoping to be able to concentrate on her beloved gymnastics and getting out of having to do ballet. But which of the duplicates is the original and which the copy? And – what will happen once the experiment comes to an end?
“Land of No Tears” (1977-78): Lame schoolgirl Cassie is whirled into a future world where she is classed as a ‘Gamma’, inferior girl; with her fellow Gamma girls and some other help, she overthrows this cruel order of things.
“The Human Zoo” (1978): see above.
“Almost Human” (1979): a cross between the Superman story and the Bionic Man, with a more emotional edge: protagonist Xenia is an alien from a dying world.
“The Forbidden Garden” (1979): set in a dystopian future where pollution has killed off all plants and people live in over-crowded and oppressive cities. Laika discovers a patch of earth which is able to support life and tries to grow a flower for her dying little sister.
“Worlds Apart” (1981): following a leak of a mysterious chemical, six schoolgirls are thrown together into alternate universe after alternate universe. Some of the universes are more magical than is compatible with scientific reality but the notion of alternate universes, and the mechanism for their travel between them, is in itself more science fictional than magical.
“Girl In A Bubble” (1976): the very idea of a girl in a bubble, kept by a scientist in order to study the effects of isolation, has plenty of science fiction elements (not least the scientist’s name – ‘Miss Vaal’). It is done more as a slave story, however.
“The Birds” (1978): there is a scientific (or at least not magical) answer behind the question of why the birds in a certain town started to attack everything, but it is more horror story than science fiction. Of course, it is a take on Hitchcock’s film.
Not to be confused with
Other time travel stories: time travel into the future is necessarily science fictional as it requires construction of that future world. Time travel into the past, or time travel of a past character into our present, would typically be a historical story or a spooky story (such as in “Shadow on the Fens”, where a girl from the past escapes persecution as a witch, and a modern girl gets a friend, by making a wish on the old Wishing Tree).
Of course, there were many sf stories outside of Jinty, too. “Supercats” in Spellbound features four space-travellers with special powers and many adventures; “E.T. Estate” in Tammy was a version of ‘The Bodysnatchers’, done with schoolgirls; “Tomorrow Town”, also in Tammy, tackles technological development and social pressures (Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock” done with schoolgirls? I but jest). Particular mention should go to “The Frightening Fours”, in Judy & Emma (1979): an alien invasion story where anybody over the age of fifteen or under three is put into a deep sleep, but four year olds are given great strength, intelligence way beyond their years, organisational abilities, and made into an army to serve the aliens’ plans.
Outside of girls’ comics, 2000AD was of course a comic more or less entirely dedicated to science fiction. Interestingly enough, the 2000AD story Skizz (1983) – written by Alan Moore, drawn by Jim Baikie – could perfectly well have appeared in a girls comic; it even had a female protagonist, as well as a down-to-earth feel.
The prevalence of science fiction stories in many comics means that we can’t only point to the same names over and again as being the initiators of this theme. Malcolm Shaw is known to have written a number of key stories in this area (“The Robot Who Cried”, “E.T. Estate”) and likewise Pat Mills wrote “Land of No Tears” and “Girl In a Bubble”; but “Tomorrow Town” was written by Benita Brown, “Fran of the Floods” was written by Alan Davidson, and who knows who had the bonkers ideas in “The Frightening Fours”! I think that if we knew the names of more writers, we’d find that many different writers in many different titles had a go at some sf story or other.
Girl in a Bubble (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Pat Mills)
The Jinx from St Jonah’s (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
Stefa’s Heart of Stone (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
Rose among the Thornes (artist Jim Baikie)
Champion in Hiding (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
Sisters at War! (artist Trini Tinturé)
Jassy’s Wand of Power (artist Keith Robson)
Snobby Shirl the Shoeshine Girl! final episode (artist José Casanovas)
Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud (artist Ken Hougton)
This is one of the first Jintys I came across when I was younger. The image of Miss Vaal pulling the flower out of Helen’s hair and then punishing her by putting her in total darkness for two days without food really stuck with me, as did the premise of a girl in a bubble. I have just come into another copy of the issue with a collection of new Jintys I have just acquired, so I am familiarising myself with the issue properly. By the way, you will be pleased to know Helen does not suffer two days of hunger and darkness; she escapes again, and this time she plucks up the courage to let herself out of the bubble. The trouble is, Miss Vaal will not like that; she is already trying to discourage Helen from leaving the bubble by breaking her spirit.
Hugh Thornton-Jones has a double chore now because he has taken over from two Mario Capaldi stories, “The Jinx from St Jonah’s” and “Champion in Hiding”. You have to wonder why Capaldi stopped drawing these strips.
This issue sees the final episode of “Snobby Shirl the Shoeshine Girl”. Has Shirl learned not to be so snobby? You would not think so by the way she is enjoying the high life. But maybe her father is in for a surprise.
Stefa’s heart of stone causes even more trouble for her parents, what with causing Dad to lose his job and take a lower paying job, and the family having to move into a cheap council house. This does not move her stony heart, but we can still see there are chinks in it. Stefa is desperate to get away from her school and Ruth Graham, who is a constant reminder that her grief for Joy is unresolved. Stefa cannot bear to be parted from her statue, the closest thing she has to a friend now. And although she expresses no shame or apology at costing her father his “grotty old job”, we suspect she really is covering up a guilty conscience. After all, in the previous episode Stefa was nagged by guilt over how much she was hurting her parents and had a sleepless night.
Jassy is developing her water divining powers, only to discover they mean trouble for her. There is a law against psychics after a one prophesised there would be no drought for many years. Furthermore, there are greedy people out to take advantage of Jassy’s power. Daisy is still too much of a lady to take the skivvy treatment she is getting lying down. She tries to speak out against the treatment she is getting from the other servants, but this only has the servants turn on her for snitching. Now her life is even more unbearable, and even the boot boy despises her. Rose manages to foil the Thornes who try to sabotage her pole vault, but gets damaged hands from having to make do with a rough pole.
Human sacrifice on a Jinty cover is disturbing, even though we can see Jassy is striving to save the boy (and succeeds). The boy is blind, which makes it even more horrifying. It makes for a striking cover to feature on this blog. “Jassy’s Wand of Power” would have been better to keep the explanation that it is set in an alternate Britain that is more superstitious so readers who joined the story would know. But it didn’t, so some readers must have been been puzzled as to why Britain is suddenly reverting to human sacrifice, witchcraft and water diviners, even if it is in a drought crisis.
Witchcraft also features in Gertie Grit, where Gertie gets a job with a witch. She ends up causing the Vesuvius eruption and the destruction of Pompeii when she makes a miscalculation with some magic powder. Gertie is forced to make another hasty exit to another time period, and for once she learns a lesson: “You can’t learn magic spells in five minutes!”
This week’s “Is This Your Story?” features Clare who makes herself the centre of attention and the envy of her classmates with her clothes. They don’t realise the clothes are not Clare’s – she helps herself to her sisters’ wardrobes to impress everyone with her appearance. The sisters resort to drastic measures to teach Clare a lesson – they lock up their wardrobes and Clare’s, so the hitherto smartly dressed Clare has to go to school in her mum’s dress! Everyone gets a huge laugh, but Clare takes it in part and sees the funny side too. This is what sees her through her dressing down, so to speak, as well as learning her lesson.
Last week Stefa softened and cried when her mother had a bad accident. But then she regretted it, seeing it as weakness when she should have stayed firm with her stony heart. This week, silly Stefa resolves to harden up even more. So poor Mum is in for a shock when she comes home from the hospital. Dad reaches his limit and decides to give Stefa a taste of her own medicine by telling her she must buy and cook her own food. Stefa welcomes it, as it will widen the rift between them. But in the next issue, Stefa finds it turning into another test for her stony heart as she is a lousy cook! But will this teach her the lesson she so badly needs to learn?
Rose foils another plot from the Thornes, but falls out with her friend Elaine. The girl in the bubble is on the run from Miss Vaal, but she and Linda dodge the police to sneak back and find out what exactly Miss Vaal is up to. They find Miss Vaal’s black book, but what will it reveal? Daisy’s plan to escape by chimney has to be put on hold when the family go on holiday and take the servants with them. It’s no holiday for Daisy, who still has to cope with hard work and bullying, but she is hopeful for a chance to escape her servitude on holiday. Will she succeed or be forced to go back to her chimney plan? Uncle Jason is in hospital, but this brings no peace between the Sisters at War. In Champion in Hiding, Mitzi’s mother is in hospital too, and nasty Aunt Shirley is taking advantage of it to sabotage Mitzi’s training for the dog championship.
Jinty has gone back to having story pages on the front cover. Science fiction story “Girl In a Bubble” is the cover story for its first few episodes, but not exclusively; the apocalyptic “Jassy’s Wand of Power” also has the cover slot for a few episodes. (More realistic story “Go On, Hate Me!” gets a few cover spots subsequently too, so it’s not only sf in the top slot.)
“Girl In A Bubble” pits the sinister Miss Vaal against Helen Ryan, who she has been keeping in a bubble for … research purposes? To my mind one of the most striking aspects of this story is the Phil Gascoine artwork, where he is experimenting with a slightly ratty line compared to his usual smooth ones. (Only a touch mind you, he’s not going the whole Gary Panter.) “Jassy’s Wand of Power” is the other science fiction-influenced story in the issue: I find it in some ways more intriguing. There is a Great Drought that has struck the world (or just the UK?), psychic powers are outlawed, and the titular character is in both demand and danger as a real water diviner. Feudalism is on the rise, as in so many apocalyptic scenarios, which makes for some very effective cliff-hangers.
Girls comics were never short of conventional morality; “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” is a tear-jerker that can be seen as a warning against obsessional, too-close friendship, but more directly there is also a sort of comics equivalent of an agony-aunt feature: “Is This Your Story?”. This is the first episode of what they call “An emotional, true-to-life series” exploring problem stories that could hit very close to home for the girl readers. In this one, Peggy’s pet dog, Punch, is killed by a driver; she is cold towards the replacement puppy bought by her parents, until the very moment she is about to take it back to the kennels. “It was as sudden and complete as that. The touch of a small paw, the questioning, trustful eyes… and from that moment they were inseparable!”
Stories in this issue:
Girl in A Bubble (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Pat Mills)
Gertie Grit, the Hateful Brit! (artist Paul White)
Stefa’s Heart of Stone (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)